WIMMERA farmers now have an easier way to access mental health services.
The National Centre for Farmer Health has partnered with online health platform Lysn to help people access farmer health trained psychologists through telehealth and face-to-face consultations.
The service allows rural residents to access psychology services at home, and arrange a confidential one-on-one session with an Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency approved psychologist.
Lysn founder Jonathan King said the service had a 48 hour turnaround and would also offer access to further support information.
"Access to psychologists has often been restrictive for those living in rural and remote communities. This is a concern when you look at the statistics and know that almost every farmer has known someone who has taken their own life," Dr King said.
Member for Lowan and Shadow Mental Health Minister Emma Kealy said the service would help fill a gap.
"It's fantastic to see we have enhanced mental health access for farmers in the Wimmera, however it doesn't negate the need for more face-to-face support services. More needs to be done to close the gaps," she said.
Ms Kealy said telehealth services gave people a greater feeling of confidentiality.
"Having this option will give people a greater sense of privacy. Walking into a health service can be daunting and is often a barrier for people seeking support in the first place, especially in smaller towns," she said.
"Some people think there's always someone worse off than them which means they don't seek help. We need to keep talking about mental health and break down the stigma.
"Christmas can be a really difficult time for people who may have lost a loved one or feel like they are under financial stress. People need to be encouraged to reach out and use the services that are available to them."
Statistics show that people living in remote Australia die from suicide at twice the rate of city residents.
In its 680-page interim report released last week, the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System said years of under-investment led to a system that was "woefully under prepared for current and future mental health challenges".
The commission said rural communities had poorer access to and lower levels of use of mental health services, and identified an immediate need to provide more support to those living in rural communities.
Dr King said people could access Lysn's online farmer health psychology services via the National Centre for Farmer Health's website.
People must have a current mental health care plan to qualify for video consultations, and must live in a rural or remote area.
Consultation prices range from $19 to $139. Medicare rebates are available for people living in remote areas.
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